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I’m most honoured to present to you the first opening pieces of The Gauntlet, a cooperatively written piece. It’s a wonderful project with a captivating story that I’m hoping you all will love. As some of you may know, I took part (Along with Deadstar) in a previous series that was on this very board as merely a writer. Now here I am before you as head of another group of fantastic people with whom I’ve enjoyed working with very much.
The story will be set up in different posts each projecting a different part of the story, written from a different race or character's perspective. But rather than go on about the story itself, I'll just let you read on. It's my distinct privilege to begin this story with a piece by Perturabo, and then followed by one written by Deadstar_MRC, and finally one by none other than yours truly. So please, enjoy the delicate fruits of our labour.
Nota Bene: Please keep any comments, praise or criticism out of this particular thread.
********************By: PerturaboDrifting through space, a mobile world maintains an unceasing vigil. It's flowing, graceful hull bathed in the baleful witch-light of the Eye, Craftworld Ulthwe sails the interstellar void. A brilliant gem set in the centre of an almost organic city-scape, the Dome of Crystal Seers reflects the disturbing, ethereal light.
Within the Dome, shielded from the ghastly Chaotic radiance, sweeping plains of exposed Wraithbone sprout groves of elegantly towering bone trees, which sway in the barely perceptible psychic breeze.
Interspersed here and there between the Wraithbone trunks stand smaller trees of multifaceted crystal. The internal structure of these trees burns faintly with the soul-fire of a long departed Farseer.
In the centre of a circle intricately carved standing stones Farseer Q'sandria sits, deep in contemplation.
The Seer's agile mind dances along the interwoven strands of fate, seeking out some hidden promise. Some distant hope.
Slowly, gradually, she perceives an insistent pull at her awareness, dragging her back along the twisted skeins of reality. A presence, distantly familiar.
Reluctantly Q'sandria relinquishes her hold on the trance, surfacing gradually into consciousness. In her hands the last active Waystone of Eldrad Ulthran, the mentor who had so nobly sacrificed himself, glowed into radiant life.
In the depths of the orb a shape began to coalesce. A world. In the heart of the psychoactive crystal the past, present and future of this world play out, interwoven in a bewildering tapestry undecipherable to any lacking the focus and mental discipline of a Farseer.
Events of dire significance would unfold on this Mon-keigh world. Events with far-reaching consequences for the Eldar of Ulthwe.
Q'sandria rose gracefully to her feet. The Craftworld must be made ready for war.
By: Deadstar_MRCKeirkan Hahndorf leant with his elbow on his paper-laden desk, his cheek in his palm, listening to the endless drone of reports from the ceaseless scouting missions probing an infinite stars and planets across the sector. It seemed so pointless; nothing ever came of these missions. Nothing but trouble, anyway.
The servitor droned on and on, it’s tinny artificial voice summarising the masses of accumulated data for his perusal. Anything important, however, had already been directed to those higher up the chain of command, leaving only tedious details for him to file away or forward for attention. But the servitor handled this without his interference, and it was only red tape that demanded a human presence to oversee this process.
For a moment the servitor fell silent as it accessed the next batch of reports, beginning to disseminate them in its usual droning tone, "Scout auger Delta-Delta-2214.79.3-Gamma reports from the Cygnus Arm sector, planet number X-189-23A, Coordinates (304,1031) Frequency sweeps report above pre-set parameter activity in the following ranges; Lambda 224-Delta and Lambda 338-Delta. Astropathic sweeps report above pre-set parameter activity in the following ranges; Zeta 05-Alpha, Zeta 21-Epsilon and Zeta 33-Beta. No other unusual activity to report. Scout auger Delta-Delta-2214.79.4-Gamma reports from the..."
"Servitor, pause your reports!"
Keirkan started in surprise, scrambling for a data-slate. He had almost forgotten the sound of the human voice, for hardly anyone came down to these archives personally. They requested reports via comms, and he sent them copies without moving from his desk.
Besides, the authorisation required to enter this building. Though Keirkan knew his place, he was sure any visitors had to contact him before entering. It was standard procedure. Who then was this new arrival, who seemingly came and went where they willed?
Keirkan soon found his answer. Heavy armoured boots brought his visitor sweeping in to view, their scarlet-lined black greatcoat fanning out behind them. Dull gunmetal power armour glinted faintly from beneath the coat, the segmented abdominal plates clicking slightly as they moved with the wearer's stride. The broad unadorned chestplate swept smoothly into a high collar, nestled between two heavy pauldrons, one embossed with a skull. Keirkan couldn't see a symbol on the other.
But the man was obviously important. His armour was spotless and finely crafted. A sword hung from his left hip, the butt of some kind of gun visible on his right. A wide-brimmed black hat perched atop his head, shading much of his face but none of the force from his abrupt commanding voice, "Keirkan Hahndorf, yes?"
Keirkan hurriedly stood, setting down his data-slate and hurriedly saluting, "Yes, sir! Sorry, sir, I wasn't expecting..."
The darkly-swathed man waved away his answer, unconcerned, "I need full reports of the latests scans from Scout auger Delta-Delta-2214.79.3-Gamma. And any past scans of the X-189-23A"
Keirkan hesitated, unsure what he should say. One the one hand, he couldn't just hand such data over, but this man was obviously important and had some authority. To ask him to prove this, though... it could be inviting trouble.
Nonetheless, there were procedures in place. Procedures that had to be respected. Aware that the visitor was still staring at him, Keirkan hurriedly cleared his throat, "I'm very sorry sir, but I must ask for some display of your authority. Before I hand over the data you've requested."
The man lifted his head a little, stalking forward towards the desk. Keirkan found his knees going weak, and he stumbled back a little and toppled back into his chair.
Two gauntleted fists clenched and leant carefully on the edge of the desk. The man leant forward, his face still in shadow, but a tiny golden symbol suspended around his neck swung in to view.
A rectangular frame bordered a red gem, upon which sat a golden 'I' crossed with three bars. A gleaming white skull was centred where the bars crossed the I, and Keirkan had the odd impression it was grinning at him, revelling in his fear.
Keirkan hear the man speak, but it washed over him without penetrating. It mattered not, for he had seen the Inquisitor's badge of office. It was all the authority he required.
He found his feet and pushed his hesitations aside. This inquisitor had demanded his assistance, and it would not be wise to delay because of something so childish as fear. He led the way to the archives, hearing the armoured figure drop in to step behind him.
By: Aaron/LoverzCryA whispery frame dressed in fine gold-trimmed white robes, stepped onto the embarkation platform, a steeped ramp plated in ceremite and dirt. Around this frail drab figure scurried servitors and Imperial Guardsmen, all bustling with crates of ammunition, pods of fuel rods, or many other cases munitions required to ready the massive ship for travel. It’s name was The Deus Iuguolo, a great Retribution Class battleship, it’s coat a shimmering black. Its shining hull reflected the flaring sun that burned through the miles of soot and smog that blanketed Holy Terra.
"Iterator Atticus," a voice yelled from behind the white haired old man. Atticus turned around to see the remorseful face of his protégé. "Can’t I come with you?" the youth nearly whimpered. The old man chuckled to himself, remembering his days of old. "No young Adonis, your place is here to learn what you can from your other mentors while I am off to spread the Imperial Truth. It is not a glorious business that I now travel on, it is a grim duty to illuminate the heretics. Your time will come." Atticus smiled at the youth and with a weary wave, he turned and continued his shuffle up the ramp, and into The Deus Iuguolo. It would be his home, his life, and his prison for the next month of travel. Trapped within the confines of the massive star ship, he would have nothing but waiting, sorting, and planning… All for the brilliant takeover of billions of unwilling foreign minds…* * * * *
Wrenching from the bleak grey launch pads, the fleet roared to life, slowly breaking free of the oppressing pull of Holy Terra. Billows of smoke and flame engulfed the surrounding miles from where the monsters of war leapt up. The Deus Iuguolo and her twelve children tore through the ominously dark sky as hundreds of thousands of onlookers cheered and cried and laughed at the momentous occasion. The formation looked like a murder, the perfect black opaqueness of the Imperial beauty was just as breath-taking as the suffocating fumes it produced.
A few minutes longer and the vision was gone. All the lonely souls who had watched the great show now meandered home to their measly lives. A passer-by who didn’t see looked up through the quilt of smog and dust, wondering, dreaming, of a world outside.* * * * *In the dimly lit bridge of the mighty Deus Iuguolo, Commander Asherot was calling out orders. His claw of a hand gripped the helm of his commander’s chair tightly as everyone ran through protocol checks and reassurances. "Engines running at full capacity." one deckhand called out, "Warp-Shield at full charge, ready and waiting." "Star engines warming up." Asherot smiled at the precision of his subordinates, glancing around he took in the majesty of the room.
The controls were dark crimson, and everything was bathed in the misty light of a glowing pod in the ceiling. "Heat rising normally in rear thrusters, Warp Drive Start Up procedures commencing, now." Each and every breath was precise and filled with purpose, while switches were flipped, buttons pressed, latches thrown, and dials turned. The Vox was full of confirmation, everything was in shape. "Just like the good ‘ol days." the commander muttered to himself, absentmindedly rubbing his augmented hand.
Garson the Vox Regulator approached the commander at a brusque, sharp pace, his blonde hair fluttering slightly. "The Dauntless Class Interitus is having a minor issue with it’s left thrusters cabling, but they say that it’ll be fine for the jump." Asherot nodded, "Alright, tell them they have the go-ahead." the officer nodded and returned to his post to relay the message. "Warp Drive Online, Warp Shield released and also Online." A fluctuating purplish hue came over the filmed glass of the deck window. A wide tear in the warp opened up as the ships floated into the vast emptiness of the perilous warp. The ship shuddered as it passed through the gate and into the darkness, and the field that kept the chaos at bay wavered and shifted more violently outside the glass. Everything was silent. Everything was fine.* * * * *
Lounging in the observatory deck of The Tribuo Vita, sister ship to The Deus Iuguolo, was Toff Centrousky, scribbling in his notebook. His mangy black hair hung loosely in his thin pale face. He didn’t really have a preference for these so long as they were of quality paper. Scrawling lines of prose and genius, he paused to reminisce on the history of his idol, Ignace Karkasy. He remembered that he had written only in a certain type of book. "What a waste…" he muttered in the darkness. The warp outside the glass was calming to him, much more so than the cramped confines of his "room".
He began his inking once more and threw off such petty thoughts. A sudden click from behind like metal on metal made his twist in surprise, spilling his ink on his emerald green tunic. "Oh!" giggled miss Dearka, an artist of sorts. "Gah, damn it Micky! I really liked this shirt too!" she giggled some more and made a meowing cat noise, playing with her noted personality as being playfully cat-like. "Oh come now Toffy, I can clean that up for you!" Still giggling she pulled the pad from his hands and danced away with it. "Hey!" he yelled, standing up in a rush, "Give that back you!" unknowingly, he had spilt the rest of his ink onto the cool black marble floor.
He chased her down the hallway and back to their shared room. A solitary servitor came upon the mess a few hours later and scrubbed the tiles clean.* * * * *
Glistening, The Deus Iuguolo flies silent. Shimmering obsidian cloaked with warp shields, the great Imperium beast shimmers silently through the Immaterium. The Deus Iuguolo lead the small fleet, guided by the Will of the Emperor as much as by the masked eyes of the Astropath. The massive ship was of retribution battleship class, with towering spires of silver and black, wrought arches and pillars with angels and gargoyles adorned. In the shadow of the Deus Iuguolo drifted twelve more ships of assorted value and purpose.
A cascading troupe of inbound astral beasts burst through the warp and nestled themselves in high anchor. Great titanous beasts of iron and steel, monstrous spindles of towers and arches lined their prestigious prows with citadel windows and archaic stone-work. Streams of gold and silver lined the fine black ships with such intricacy that not even angels could bake such a beauty. The halls and chambers were depicted with the heroics of hero’s of past. Elder fallen comrades and those who still fought on, their faces and valour were the grand decor of the vast mausoleum-esque labyrinths.
The dark fiery engine rooms were blackened with soot and grime, their walls stained with grease and blood and smoke. Servitors and deck-hands manned such meagre controls that the Imperial Guard wouldn’t even dirty their sweaty hands with. The star-engines flared and dimmed to a slow burn as the final destination coordinates were locked into place. The massive hulls scratched invisible trails in the highest atmospheric level of the planet as it made ready for high-anchor lock. Great pistons and gears wailed in protest, and screamed in strain as the massive ships settled and nuzzled in. Docked and ready, preparations began to commence.
My name is Dan. I’m a guardsman fighting in the name of the Emperor of Mankind, and damn proud of it. Though I’m not a veteran just yet, I’ve survived all kinds of warfare, from Ork Planets to Tyranid Hives and I’ve even been run over by a chaos war-bike. Yep, I’d say I’m about the most experienced guardsman in my platoon, that’s for sure, but I’ve got to say, nothing would have prepared me for what happened on my last mission.
For this particular interstellar excursion, I’d be boarding the battleship dubbed The Deus Iuguolo, which despite having a name that sounds like an Eskimo trying to say “igloo” with peanut butter on the roof of his mouth, is a pretty bad-ass shuttle. Due to a mix up with my papers, I ended up having to take basic training all over again. I would be angry about this but to be honest, this is probably about the seventeenth time they’ve done this to me, trust me I can’t make this up. Among names like “Adonis the Great”, and “Amadeus Aurelius XVIII”, you’d think it wouldn’t be that hard to remember a guy simply named “Dan”, but apparently it’s just the opposite.
The basic training takes about four months, which consists of the usual drills, tactical lessons and weapon maintenance skill training, though after seeing this “training” in action, I think they might as well be teaching us to tap-dance and sing funeral songs. I’m not saying the Imperial Guard is an awful battle-force, I’m just saying that we’re very… death-prone.
“ALRIGHT LADIES!”, Commissar Swann called out, standing proud in his armour and basket-ball shorts with brand-new tennis shoes, “TODAY WE’RE LEARNING ABOUT TRENCH SAFETY!”
Commissar Swann was a peculiar fellow, I’d served under him on many missions, and although he’s not the best leader, he definitely knows what he’s talking about tactically. Commissar during the week and Imperial Football team coach on the weekends; he has a very… versatile set of skills.
The near eight-hundred of us guardsmen were gathered in front of the large stage from which the commissar was giving his lesson. On one side of him were a large screen and a projector that was being warmed up as we spoke. There was chatter among us, until the commissar cleared his throat and addressed us, calling us into uniform position, facing the stage.
“OKAY! SO! WHO CAN TELL ME WHAT YOU DO WHEN YOU SEE A BUNKER?!”
A guardsman raised his hand. “YES! YOU!”
“Get in it?”
“REMEMBER THIS PNEUMONIC! OKAY,” he said as the slideshow came on depicting a happy guardsman rushing into a bunker and hiding inside, firing blindly out the hole with a lascannon, “BUNKER TOWN! HUNKER DOWN!”
“What if we’re about to be breached by the enemy?”
“If we’re being attacked on all flanks?”
“What if I’ve lost my will to live and am willing to accept death?”
“HUN- oh. Then you just run out there and get shot, BUT THE REST OF YOU! HUNKER! THE F**K- DOWN!”
A lot of the newbie guardsmen had a hard time understanding our tactics. Unused to the idea of spray-and-pray, somehow these kids had gotten the idea that we were a highly organised tactical battle-force, sweeping through the field in a strict, strategic assault form. Any real guardsman knows that we pretty much just send a first battalion out in a wave as a shield while the people who matter slightly more rush out behind them with cover from basilisk fire. Oh and sure you may be thinking, “Oh but Dan, what about the Ratlings and the Sentinels? Don’t they matter? Aren’t they tactical?” No, no they are not, first off walkers are moving targets, like ducks in a shooting gallery at a carnival, and secondly, pffffffffft Ratlings? The only reason they aren’t xeno scum is because they’re still half human.
I’ve been getting lots of questions like that from my platoon’s newbies ever since Commissar Swann’s speech on guard tactics. It’s almost refreshing to see soldiers so blind and naive, reminds me of myself from earlier days… ah, those were fine times. Kind of. Okay not really, they were awful, though nonetheless it’s nostalgic.
All I know is it’s going to be a long trip to wherever it is we’re going…
Scuffling through a ruined tunnel, a wearied Iterator shuffled through the dark dank halls of The Deus Iuguolo. His sagging tired eyes were ragged in their ravaged, sleep deprived sockets. Pattering down the dank echoing passages, he carried with him an old and tattered book, its pages a yellowish brown with age. He scurried past countless sweaty crewmen, stiff-shouldered Guardsmen, and looming hulking Space Marines currently belonging to the Deathwatch.
The troopers were all adorned in their wear of long flowing coats of silky black, many adorned with precious medals won in wars of the past. The Iterator, or great speech maker, was one of the couple dozen remaining on the ship. It was said, that before Horus’s failed uprising, the Remembrancers had full access to whichever part of the ship that they wished. The scrawny man laughed at such a notion and pedalled on towards his dingy destination, the Remembrancers quarters.
As the young man hustled his weary way down the dim and tight channel of walkway, deep in the hidden bowels of the ship, a huge bulky figure stepped round a grimy corner before him. It stepped out into the opening so quickly, the remembrancer nearly ran into it. Before him stood the Emperors greatest creation, a terrifying menace of what was once man, an astartes. The great hulking astartes stood stock still, his petrifying gaze boring into the fatigued mans soul. His legs trembled a little from the mere presence of the soldier, and his knees nearly bucked once he finally spoke. "What is it you’ve got there Iterator? Tell me your name as well." his stern voice was hard and cold as he indicated the book with a sharp jerk of his head. "W-why this? It’s an old record from the Domande de Angeli Librarium."
The mortal man gave a weak smile at the fierce beast before him. He wondered how quickly life would end if he was hit with one of the massive rounds from the Bolter at the astartes’ hip. At long last the astartes seemed satisfied with the mans answer and stepped aside so that the tawny man could pass. With a swift nod of thanks, the temporal rushed past the astartes in a pool of sweat, and relief. "Wait." the mighty astartes called after him. Frozen, he began to sweat, fearing that his lie had been caught, pools of sweat started to form in his pits and on his chest. "You forget to tell me your name Iterator." Shakily turning with a feeble smile he looked to the soldier of the Emperor. "Oh, hehe my apologies, it’s Terry. Terry Windermere." He then proceeded to scurry down the begotten hallway after being dismissed for a second time. The youth had returned with an amazing find. In the massive, Archive Chamber VI. A book that could possibly cost him his life, and probably would…* * * * *
"Pretty pretty purple here~!" sang Michelle Dearka, the artist of this expedition. Her brushstrokes were long and precise, shadows looked real and danced on her metal canvas. The clanking of footfall came echoing down the hall, and her eyes darted up in surprise. Her pupils were shaking and lips were trembling. She never thought of being caught.
A shadow snaked up to the corner of the hallway, and the owner stepped round casually. The dashing face of Atticus stood there, surprised. "Oh, Michelle what are you doing?" looking at her work quizzically. With an impish attitude and a playful grin she replied, "Oh, this? I’m painting an open door on the wall of this corridor of course!" She beamed at him and continued his work. He stood the for a moment. "…Genius."
He sat down beside her and looked on at her masterpiece, thinking to himself and snickering about the poor sap who’s to find her stroke of genius.* * * * *
"What in the name of the Emperor are you eating?" Leon asked, staring disgusted at the object in the hands of his fellow veteran guardsmen Claud. Leon was a dry individual, his lank black hair ruffled. He puffed on a crinkled cigarette as Claud looked up at him from his lunch. "This?" he asked back, indicating the sandwich. "Yes! What the throne is in it!?" Claud smiled "It’s a salt-rock and coconut sandwich." Leon stood there, stupefied by the idiocy of his friend and comrade. "…What the **** man?" Claud just laughed and took another bite.
Another guardsman walked in as Leon gave up and plopped himself down on his dingy cot. He was a decent looking man with prematurely white hair and black eyes. "Hey there guys. Oh Claud, what’cha eating?" "It’s a salt-rock and coconut sandwich Kalus…" "Whoa!" Kalus Pandalla exclaimed, "Can I have a bite!?" "Um… sure?" Claud reluctantly gave the Medi-Pack specialist his lunch. "Aw sweet!" and Kalus took a bite, seeming to enjoy and even possibly savour the flavour. Leon made a grotesque gagging sound as he handed the sandwich back to Claud.
They tried passing the time on the ship by playing cards, but that only lasted so long. Leon and Kalus ended up having an arm wrestling match. Leon won. "Ha-ha, in your face stupid combat-medic!" Kalus made a face. "That’s the point…" The both turned to look at Claud to see what he was doing. He was reading some sort of thin pamphlet in his cot. "Hey man," Leon called over to him, "What’re you reading." Looking up from the pamphlet, Claud showed him the cover. "The In-Flight Magazine." Leon and Kalus just stood there silently "…" "What!?" Claud yelled, flustered "I’m bored as throne!" Leon laughed and Kalus joined in.
Typical boring warp travel. Smoke circled around the room as Leon and Leif sucked on their cigarettes. Leif was a quiet soldier, who kept to himself most of the time. He just sat there on a backwards chair, just on the edge of the group.* * * * *
In a vacant hallway, a guardsman tried to walk through an open door to see what was inside. He broke his nose and his friends laughed at him. They didn’t tell anyone about the fake door, and laughed all the way to the Medi-Deck.* * * * *
Leon strode powerfully into the crowded dingy barracks of the ship, his arms laden with packed plastic bags and small papery boxes. "Hey guys, what’s up?" Claud and a few others looked up at him to get a look at what he was holding. Shaking his head at Leon’s load, Claud asked, "So, since I know you’re going to wait until I ask," imitating Leon’s voice in a mocking manner. "Ooh! Whaat~ do you~ haaaave in the booooox Leoooon~!?"
Laughing, Leon made his way to his own little cot. He spread out his things carefully and quickly as a small crowd gathered around him. "Well, I’ve got a few bottles of whiskey and wine, a couple boxes of chocolate, some gummy worms packages, a bag or two of liquorice, and get this!" holding something up "They have action figures!" Held in his hand was a cellophane wrapped plastic figurine of the Emperor of Mankind. "… If that isn’t propaganda I don’t know what is."
Quizzically and suddenly, Claud spoke as he glanced over the assortment of items lain out before him, "Wait, how did you buy all that? You don’t have any money! And where the hell would you get that anyways!?" "Allowable government expenses." "What!? You know what, I don’t even care." and they all laughed enjoyed Leon’s unexplainable spoils.* * * * *
Playing cards in the Studio Hall, which was the area where most of the Imperial Guard and the few Remembrancers relaxed, Atticus sat there drinking and laughing with some guardsmen. "So ya, there I was without my pants and-" he paused as he saw an acquaintance of his running towards their table, his eyes shifty, his forehead sweaty, and holding a strange old book. Wary of his ’friend’ he called to him with a waving arm "Hey there Terry, why not join us for a drink, eh?" The young man smiled a little as he saw Atticus, and he shook as his feeble frame took a seat by Atticus. "I-I don’t see w-why I can’t j-j-join you for a while."
Looking at Terry seriously, his eyes stern, Atticus lowered his voice to a hushed whisper as he leaned closer to the quaking man. "Are you alright Terry?" forcing a smile on his face Terry answered a bit too quickly. "Alright? Haha! O-of course I’m alright. W-why wouldn’t I be alright? I‘m just, just fine." Almost glaring into the frightened mans eyes, Atticus turned away muttering a "We’ll talk later" under his breath. "So, as I was saying, I was there without my pants…" and the conversation went on. Terry sat there and drank a few small glasses of weak, watery liquor. "I’ve made it…" A faint sneer grew on his face, a somewhat crazed look in his eyes. No one noticed this as they all grew sauced.
The drinking was done, and Terry helped Atticus to their room half-carrying him there. Atticus kept on singing songs from too long ago. Something about painkillers or something as Terry recalled. He dragged the poor excuse of a writer to his bed and threw him down in it. He meandered over to his own sleeping place, and looking around to see if anyone was about, slipped the old book beneath his bed-mat. He extinguished the lights and went to sleep.* * * * *
"Hey, wake up!" Atticus groaned, twisting in his warm and comfy bed. The pestering voice persisted in trying to shake him awake. His head pounded and his eyes hurt. The light hurt, the pillow hurt, and the insisting voice hurt even more. "ugh, shut up…" he grumbled angrily at the voice. "No, wake up you lazy bastard! Your drinking is no excuse to sleep all space-day." irritated, and knowing full well Terry would not let up, he looked up to the scrawny Iterator. "Space-day? That some sort of term you came up with yourself? Whatever, it doesn‘t matter…"
Stumbling from his ruffled tangled bed sheets, he lumbered over to the miniature chill-box in his room and pulled out a beer. "You’re drinking a beer for breakfast!?" Terry exclaimed in aghast. "Yup…" Atticus replied, holding his head. "and could you keep it down a bit?" "What are you? A Space Wolf?" Terry laughed, and Atticus couldn’t help but snigger a little as well. "Hey…" Atticus started, still clutching his head "Didn’t I want to… ugh to talk you ‘bout something?" Terry froze, but tried to recover quickly. "Talk about something? No no, I don’t remember anything… Nope, nothing at all. You must be mistaken." "Huh…"
Atticus sipped at his beer and paused, staring intently on his drink. "Hey Terry?" wary, Terry spoke back. "Yes?" Watching the wavering liquid in the bronze coloured bottle, "Why do the Astartes like booze so much?" Terry was surprised at this sudden and random question. "Um, I’m not all too sure, why?" Atticus’s brow furrowed in thought as he massaged his left temple, taking another slow swig of his malty beverage. "It’s just, their systems purify the alcohol, so they like… get no effect from it… so uh… why do you think that they ugh, like it so much…?" Terry shrugged off this second question, thinking it a bit ridiculous. "I dunno Atticus, maybe they drink super-booze or something." Terry chuckled a little at his snide comment. "THAT‘S IT!" exclaimed Atticus. Terry was so shocked by the random outburst that he jumped. "That has to be it! Super-Booze! Maybe it’s brewed from the purified cloned contaminants of the emperors blood, and then inbred with the other ingredients…" Terry stood there, at a loss for words. "Dude, what the ****…" Atticus smiled at the young Iterator. "You have no idea what sort of hangover that kind of shit would give you." Terry shook his head. "I don’t think I’d want to know." Atticus shrugged, and at this, started to get ready for another "Space-Day" in the Warp.
Commander Asherot marched through increasingly grimier and danker corridors of his command, the Deus Iuguolo, following the faintly humming servo-skull that had earlier floated onto his bridge and requested he attend an audience with 'the master'.
Though the smooth, synthesised voice of the servo-skull had not been specific, Asherot knew where he was being led. For some reason, the Inquisitor on board his ship required his presence.
Asherot didn't like Inquisitors. He'd had to deal with several, thankfully only one at a time, over his years in the fleet, and he hadn't yet encountered one who wasn't pushy, interfering and generally so full of their own self-righteousness as to be incapable of listening to anyone but themselves. Had they earned the helm of his ship? Had their tactical prowess and capable command granted them custody of the Deus Iuguolo? Why was it, then, they felt they could order him around, when he was supposed to be leading this vessel, this fleet?
And now he had another of the menaces on board. Asherot had thought that by giving the Inquisitor the furthest possible quarters from the bridge, he would be spared his interference. Unfortunately, it now meant he had a very long walk through passages he had not traversed in years, and he wondered if the Inquisitor was actually summoning him for a reason or just to tire him.
A feeling of unease began to grow on him as the servo-skull approached a heavy door at the end of the corridor. It only served to irritate him; Asherot knew he had nothing to fear from this Inquisitor, and he'd be damned if he was going to cower before the man just because of his title. Yet as he drew nearer, his unease only seemed to increase, for no reason he could fathom.
The servo-skull had halted beside the door and Asherot took a moment to try and calm himself before he entered. It wasn't a wise idea to carry a feeling of irritation into any meeting, and probably even less wise when you were meeting with an Inquisitor. But still the feeling of unease would not pass, and because of this he couldn't completely soothe his nerves.
Never the less, delaying further was also unwise, so Asherot placed his hand upon the opening rune and stood back as the door hissed aside.
He marched smartly into the Inquisitor's quarters, finding the man behind a solid though battered wooden desk, his head bowed over even more ancient parchment. A woman in simple brown robes sat cross-legged on one side of the desk, her keen eyes flicking over the yellowing records as the Inquisitor sifted through them. Asherot met her eye for a moment, and was left feeling ill. To his eyes she seemed a rather attractive woman, if you overlooked the brass contraption encircling her shaven head and the blood-red topknot spilling from the skull-shaped silver clasp. And yet to look at her... it sent shivers through his very soul.
Seemingly not noticing his discomfort, the woman reached over and gently tapped the Inquisitor's shoulder. He glanced up for a moment, a hint of a smile beginning to grow on his face as he reached out to take her retreating hand, “What is it, Kelthari, that you must distract me so?”
She smiled and gestured with her other hand, and Asherot snapped to attention.
The Inquisitor dropped the woman's hand and came to his feet, smiling and shaking his head, spilling raven hair over his shoulders, “I'm sorry, Commander Asherot, I had all but forgotten that I had summoned you. And then I fail to even acknowledge your presence! I must apologise sincerely for my tardiness. Here,” the Inquisitor gestured to a threadbare seat, “Sit with me for a moment Commander, if you will? I should properly introduce myself and my companions.”
As Asherot seated himself the Inqusitor continued, “My name is Ulandis Barrim. I am an Inquisitor, as you are already aware, currently devoting much of my time to the Ordo Hereticus. I'm also,” he admitted with a wry smile, “the primary reason for your presence here.”
“Strange,” Asherot interjected. “I don't recall seeing your name within the mandate authorising the assembly of this fleet...”
Ulandis shook his head, “I believe it was there, in passing. You see, I discovered something which I believed warranted further investigation. My superiors agreed, and it was they that called this fleet together. But they left the responsibility of investigation in my hands and, to be frank...”
He trailed off for a moment, a slight frown creasing his brow as a gauntleted hand rose to touch his chin. Asherot waited patiently, but it was not until Kelthari returned with two tall, thin glasses and a bottle of water on a tray that he restarted the conversation.
Taking a small sip of his drink, Ulandis leant forward, “To be frank, Asherot... I don't know what is ahead of us. I've been over my investigations time and time again, but I cannot seem to come to a definitive conclusion. All I know, and all I can impart to you, is that there is unfamiliar psychic activity on X-189-23A, and that we should be prepared for anything.”
Asherot was not impressed, “This was why you summoned me? To tell me we need to be prepared for anything?”
Ulandis didn't miss his tone, and his eyes sharpened, “I mean not to advise you or direct you, Commander Asherot, but merely to prepare you. I hoped to demonstrate the need for caution.”
“Funny,” Asherot sneered, “I find 'caution' to be another name for cowardice!” He stood and drained his glass, snapping off a salute and a last retort before departing, “I didn't get to my position by being a coward, though it seems you Inquisitors do things differently!”
As the door hissed shut behind the departing Commander, Ulandis pushed himself to his feet and scanned the room. Kelthari was notably absent, but this was not uncommon. He went to find her.
She was, as he expected, seated in the adjacent room, in the far corner. As far as possible from where the commander had been seated. Ulandis couldn't help a smile.
Kelthari, on the other hand, wasn't so cheery. Her hands sketched rapid signs before her, her tone evident by the frown on her face. Don't try blaming that on me! I'm not the one that insulted him!
Ulandis couldn't help but bait her, “Come now, Kelthari, it was hardly an insult. Hardly worthy of such a reaction. Sometimes I think you deliberately annoy my guests to make things difficult for me.”
Sometimes, she signed, I think you use me as an excuse for your ineptitude.
He couldn't help but laugh at that, knowing she was equally as right as she was wrong. As a former Sister of Silence, and now as a loyal part of his retinue, the fact she was Soulless often did cause noticeable problems, although he never blamed her for those. It was only the times when he and his shortage of tact caused offence that he liked to blame her.
The first few times, she had been outraged. Now, it was tradition.
He glanced over at the other two figures in the room, Narris and Telforn, the identical twins. He decided this time to include them, “And you two. You were no help either!”
Narris looked up from his place on the floor, brandishing the part of whatever firearm he was cleaning and shrugging, “Did you want him shot?”
Ulandis smiled, “I wanted to have a conversation with him...”
This time Telforn answered, not even bothering to look up from his labours, “Be glad we didn't help. They don't talk when they're shot.”
Ulandis shook his head and decided to leave them be. Everyone who accompanied him was so difficult to speak with, so focused and single-minded...
Which was exactly why they accompanied him. Because they were reflections of his self, like attracting like.
He held his smile for a moment longer before pushing it away and retreating to the desk. Kelthari's footsteps echoed his moments after, and was glad he had her company as he delved into his notes once more.
This post is actually by SWAY, one of our talented writers that I'm happy to say is part of our group. His section is about Deathwatch Astartes, and they have yet to rendevue with the rest of the fleet. Please enjoy.
As he looked around the Librarian could feel it like a cold chill down he's back. He looked over his battle brothers from the bridge of the Thunderhawk that was starting to shake violently.
"What is it Brother Lezarius?" the Inquisitor asked in a voice barely more than a whisper.
"I feel we are heading for a grave errand this time Master, most of us shall never return" Lezarius replied, slight edge in his voice.
As they left the orbit of the last refuelling station on Evodias V, the Astartes began their final rituals. The Salamanders took to the outer parts of the ship to get a rush of what they like to call "Hot Fresh Air" when the Thunderhawk broke the planets atmosphere, Brothers of The Black Templars took to the Chapel with the Chaplains for ritual prayers and blessings, The Death Spectres were calibrating their Lascannons for optimum performance, Space Wolves instantly took to the Sparring Cages, Ultramarines were found polishing their armour and The White Scars checking their jump pack exhausts for anything foreign.
"C'mon Ruils you can't beat this thing, its too BIG for you" said Brother Araties, a Marine from the Imperial Fists Chapter
"Shut your mouth youngling or your next" Ruils retorted
"Oooo I’m scared of your big DOG TEETH you mutt" Araties replied joyfully
At that moment Ruils the Space Wolve ripped the Sparring Servitor from the gears that held it in place then made for the young brother marine through the cage.
"BROTHER RUILS STOP, I WILL NOT HAVE HIS ON MY SHIP" The Librarian Lazarius was charging towards them and with a swift hand to the chest hit Araties into the wall of he ship which made a bang like lightning.
"NOW if there are anymore conflicts you will spend the rest of this trip in the holding cells and you will be dropping with the tech ARE WE CLEAR?" Lezarius warned
"Yes Maaster" Ruils replied in a hushed voice
"THIS GOES FOR THE REST OF YOU TO, NOW DO YOU UNDERSTAND?" Lezarius announced to the rest of the crew
"SIR YES, SIR" all the mighty Astertes replied
There was running from down the hall leading off the bridge and then over the loud speaker "BREACH IN THE BRIDGE, BREACH!"
They could hear footsteps from the bridge and the brother marines almost instantly took up their weapons and took up a defensive stance as best they could.
"Hold your line against whatever comes through that door, the will of the Emperor shall be bestowed upon us" Lezarius called to all the gathered marines. He knew full well whatever was about to breach that door could and would be stopped by his crew of Space Marines, He took up he's own stance on the Vanguard and waited.
'High Admiral, We are approaching the Wraithgate above Yrenshemash.'
'Excellent. Commence the Ritual of Activation.' Tyrnien, High Admiral of the Protector Fleets of Ulthwe, watched the swirling multi-hued walls of the Webway sleet past the arched viewing portals of his bridge. The ancient Eldar marveled at the fleeting glimpses of order in the randomness. Never, in all his thousands of fleet actions, had he seen a repeated pattern in the vast labrynthine network of tunnels.
Tyrnien rose from the command throne at the centre of the wraithbone deck. 'Charge pulsar lances, ready torpedoes.' Elegant robes rippling behind him, the tall Eldar strode to the forward viewing portal. Gripping the railing, he stared ahead into the Webway, eager for the oncoming gate to open. Eager for the slaughter to begin. He could feel the tension building in the ships infinity circuit as the crew, and the departed souls of the Eldar assisting them, prepared themselves for battle.
Behind his throne, towards the rear of the exquisitely formed bridge, stood a circle of Webseers, voices raised in harmonious song. Each of the colourfully-robed Eldar occupied a designated position in the symbolic representation of a Wraithgate carved into the deck. One by one the seers raised their arms, the pitch of their song rising in tandem. As the song intensified, the runestone held by each seer glowed a vibrant azure, twisting lines of psychic fire sprang into existence, linking each stone with it's fellows.
Invisible to the crude augers of the primitive Mon-keigh fleet below, a ring of rune encrusted wraithbone spheres hung in high geosynchronous orbit around Yrenshemash. Gradually, the runes began to glow, cold fire building from within the spheres.
One of the smaller Imperial ships detached from the flotilla above the planet, approaching the ring, intent on investigating the sudden energy spike.
Without warning, ropes of azure energy burst into life, linking the spheres into a web of pulsating light.
Slowly, ponderously, the Imperial fleet began to break formation, struggling against the planets gravity to heave themselves into defensive positions. But it was far too late. The glowing lattice of the activating wraithgate collapsed on itself, opening a vast circular door into the Webway. Screaming death had come to Yrenshemash.
The seers song reached it's crescendo, the web of energy between them twisting into a disc of pure light, before flashing out of existence. Tyrnien felt the rush of psychic energy wash over him and reveled in it. Ahead he could see the circle of black void beyond the open wraithgate. 'Raise the sails!' he ordered, releasing the last of his mental walls, becoming his war-self in a similar manner to an Aspect Warrior. Linked to his vessel by the innate psychic abilities of his race, he felt the glorious kiss of starlight on the huge solar sails that powered Eldar ships through normal space. 'Kill them all!'
The Eldar armada burst from the Webway, dozens of black-hulled Dragonships fanned out with horrifying speed, sleek hulls disintigrating into clouds of scattering particles as their holo-fields activated. Rushing ahead of the main advance came flitting shoals of Shadowhunters, spiraling around each other with the sheer joy of combat. A trio of the nimble escort ships peeled off from their fellows, anihilating the inquisitive Imperial frigate in a volley of phantom lance fire.
Admiral Tyrnien's long-fingered hands twisted around the safety rail in excitement as he watched the ugly, blocky Mon-keigh vessels trying to react to their attack. He laughed as he watched the ghostly flickering of their void shields powering up, knowing they could not possibly raise them to full strength in time. He turned to the communications officer. 'Give the order for the Captains to fire at will.'
The Eldar fleet screamed across the void, pulsar lances playing across the hulls of the Imperial ships, explosions rippling along their structure. Sporadic return fire barked from Imperial gun batteries, largely confounded by the holo-fields of the Eldar. A few Shadowhunters disintigrated under the barrage, their fragile hulls torn asunder by high-yield anti-ship shells.
The largest of the Imperial ships, a lumpen spire-encrusted behemoth, finally managed to drag itself into a firing position. The vessel unleashed a wave of huge torpedoes torwards Tyrnien's flagship. The huge missiles shrieked across the void, their primitive guidance systems seeking the energy output of the Dragonship.
The pathetic Mon-keigh think to deny us! Evasive maneuvres!' The Dragonship heeled to port and darted away from the incoming salvo, short ranged turrets bringing down the few that managed to lock on to the elusive ship. The exhileration of the maneuvre coursed through Tyrnien, the fire of battle in his eyes. 'I want that ship! Send Eagle flight to flank it!
Two Dragonships and a shoal of Shadowhunters angled towards to the huge ship, sails flashing in the light from the system star. The Shadowhunters darted close in, stitching lines of fire along the massive vessels void shields, which flared and collapsed one by one. The Shadowhunters danced through the return battery fire as the Dragonships made their run. A punishing lance salvo tore through the hull of the behemoth, burning out it's starboard gun decks. Grindng ponderously round on their huge mountings, the dorsal lance batteries of the Imperial vessel spoke in retaliation, slicing the trailing Dragonship in two. The ships power systems overloaded, tearing it apart and spilling hundreds of Eldar screaming into the void.
Tyrnien felt a pang of regret for his brothers aboard the ship, but it was swept away in the heat of the moment, as his ship unleashed a torpedo salvo of it's own, following it into the teeth of their enemies guns. Long ranged battery fire from the enemy ship streaked past, the odd impact and near miss rocking the ship. Then his torpedoes hit. Every one of the sophisticated missiles finding it's mark in the huge vessel. The detonations tore a huge hole in the body of the ship, exposing it's vulnerable core.
'The way is open! Lances!' Tyrnien cried gleefully, willing the steersmen to catch more stellar radiation in their sails, to somehow force more speed out of the vessel. His lance batteries opened fire as he dove towards the glowing rent in the enemy flagship. Pulses of energy slashed along the lance beams, hammering the crippled ship.
With a sudden flash the plasma reactors of the ship went critical, engulfing the stricken vessel in blue-white fire. 'Pull out of the dive!' Tyrnien screamed. The dragonship screeched in protest as the steersmen forced the sails into a new position, altering course and spiralling away from the titanic explosion. Buffeted by the huge forces unleashed by the kill, the ship shook, almost throwing Tyrnien from his feet.
The shockwave roared past the ship, snapping sail lines and breaching the hull in several places, but the Dragonship survived, riding out the explosion. Tyrnien steadied himself. 'How goes the battle?'
'The Mon-keigh are defeated, High Admiral' replied his deck officer. 'The destruction of their flagship has taken the fight out of the survivors.'
'Excellent. Show them no mercy.'
'Of course, my lord'
The Eldar fleet began the process of destroying the remaining Imperial vessels, a task it accomplished with contemptuous ease. Each vessel was surrounded and brought low by darting predators, mercilessly hammered by laser batteries and swift attack craft.
One of the last ships to die stood defiant to the end, launching waves of landing craft towards the planet below, trying vainly to defend them from the Eldar ships. In it's final death throes the vessel took with it a shoal of Shadowhunters, caught in the blast of it's reactor melting down.
'The Mon-keigh have landed troops on Yrenshemash Admiral!'
Tyrnien returned to his throne, reining in his raging warrior-psyche as he did so. 'Ready the fleets Guardians. Send word to Ulthwe. The Mon-keigh fleet has been driven off, it is safe to deploy our warriors to the surface. We shall show these upstart vermin that their mastery of this galaxy is not as total as they believe it be.'
Metal rippled and fires tore through the empty silence of space, black beasts of lore and fame buckled beneath the spontaneous assault of the Eldar. Flares of purple rays and clashing ships tore through steel, adamantine, flesh and bone. Guardsmen screamed as flames licked and barked through their quarters, great balls of flaring purple and blue scorched through the ship, sirens blaring over every Vox unit, Astartes among them, troops scurried to their embattlements, desperately clawing for Drop Pod accessibility and space aboard the few surviving Thunderbirds.
The fragile resistance of the Imperial ships was to laugh at, discoordinated fire happened to score a few blind hits, but nothing substantial in battle was won. All was amiss in the chaos and destruction of the magnificent fleet. Commander Asherot ground his teeth as The Deus Iuguolo swung around in a drunken fashion. "Load the torpedoes! Man the ballista’s! If we’re going down, we’re taking those damned Xenos scum with us!" orders were shouted through the control room, the Vox-caster was curled over and sobbing loudly from his station. They were going to die.
"Torpedoes loaded and firing, ballista’s have opened fire on the enemy. Confirmed hits. Fir-" the ship shook with a tremendous blow, controlmen and other stationeries were thrown to the cold steel floor in the concussion. Asherot stood firm where he was. "Status report! Now!" a deck officer clambered to his quaking feet, reading off a data-screen. "Massive damage to sectors eighteen through thirty-nine, warp shield generators three and four are offline and our main engines have been des-" "Enough! Keep firing!" Commander Asherot ground his teeth some more, and stuck some tobacco in his mouth to chew on instead.
The ship quivered and shook, screaming in protest of the fight. A flare burst from the right of the vessel. "Starboard gun decks destroyed, dorsal batteries retaliating!" a deckhand screamed and hollered over the commotion of the control deck. Another explosion, this one shaking even Asherot to a knee, more sirens blared and red lights flashed overhead, "What happened!?" he roared, "Eldar torpedoes sir! Core is exposed, and-" "This is it…" Commander Asherot said softly, ignoring the rest of the youths words. "Men!" he called out, "That’s enough." Tremors rattled the ship, but the chamber quieted, and all that was heard was the soft boom of blasts beyond the room. "These are our final moments. I’d like to say, that I am honoured to have served with all of you. And -" his words were silenced with the roar of flames and plasma. The core exploded in a great display of fire and shrapnel.
The fighting continued, the Eldar cleaning up the remaining ships with ease, spare the last one. The Tribuo Vita. She shone on, fighting off the darting enemies as drop pods and Thunderbirds roared towards the surface. In a final explosion, all was gone and then, silence… Particles of human remains and oil and parts floated aimlessly amid the dark abyss, as Eldar ships sailed back to their isolated docks. Pods and Thunderbirds indeed made landfall on Yrenshemash, though as few as they were. There they would continue, unguided and alone. There, is where the battle truly began.
Ulandis was still hunched over his desk when the first shock waves hit, and right from the start he knew this one would be rough. To hear the first barrage in his quarters, to feel it through the deckplates... A sinking feeling formed in his gut. The ship was already as good as dead, and he would be too if he didn't leave. Immediately.
Kelthari, Narris and Telforn were all with him in instants, helping him to gather up the scrolls and parchments on his desk, and the various other instruments and equipment they had furnished their quarters with. They made for Ulandis' private shuttle as soon as they could.
The black and silver Aquilla was a welcome sight when they reached it scant minutes later, sprinting down the smoky corridors, frantically dodging buckling deck plates. Already the Deus Iuguolo was listing uncomfortably, the lights flickering as power was drawn elsewhere. Distant explosions shook the mighty vessel, the death throes of a once proud ship about to meet its end.
Ulandis wondered for a moment, with one foot on the boarding ramp, whether there was any way he could help. Could his presence on the bridge turn the tide of the battle? Immediately his encounter with Commander Asherot only hours later rose to the forefront of his mind, and Ulandis had to admit he would only make a further nuisance of himself. If he even made it to the bridge before the vessel tore itself apart. No, he would leave the doomed ship to its cruel fate.
His task was now to discover what was so important about X-189-23A. To discover who protected this world, and why. Undoubtedly it was they who were behind this attack.
The Aquilla launched from the Deus Iuguolo into the void of space, and even Ulandis found himself stunned at the state of destruction. Most of the fleet was already in ruins, only a scattering of small vessels like his own falling towards the surface of X-189-23A. He sent up a silent prayer that they would make it safely.
Amongst the burning wreckage and crippled battleships there were other vessels still under full power; swift, elegant shapes that Ulandis immediately recognised. Eldar.
His thoughts flicked back to the readouts he had been poring over, and everything immediately made sense. It had been the Eldar all along. The data detected by the probe and the augers had hinted at their presence, and he had been too blind to see it.
Suddenly all those deaths seemed to bear down upon him. It was his role to know these things, to warn others. And because he hadn't a whole fleet had died.
He felt a hand touch his armour and turned slightly to see Kelthari just behind him, a sad look on her face.
You couldn't have known, she signed. We'd not seen data like that before. Similar, yes, but not alike enough to be recognised as signs of Eldar forces...
He turned away from her and spoke into the void instead, “It should have been enough. I should have known.”
After only a few moments he felt Kelthari retreat across the cabin. She knew there was truth in her words, but she couldn't deny the truth in his.
They continued their descent in silence, their faces lit by the flare of the Deus Iuguolo's passing.
Bump, these writers need their credit, and I don't believe this smidge of greatness has gotten its due attention.